Therefore the commerce under analysis is not a mere relation of exchange, but is a relation in which two forces become actively involved. Since it is man who initiates the process then it results that man is free to act as he wishes and not determined in his actions. The fact that this process is initiated in times of hardship demonstrate the fact that will and freedom are not enough in order to find the path towards the truth, freedom and serenity, and that god is needed in order to achieve this goal. If the exchange relationship is the mechanism through which god ad man communicate and unite, then prayer is the instrument which the process needs for its fulfilment.
Prayer is considered to be the active manifestation of religion, its incarnation. That is why the author argues that it is "real religion" as opposed to moral senses (the ethic dimension implied by religion) or aesthetic feelings (god is perfect, therefore beauty derives from god). Therefore true religion occurs when the individual is in need of god and acknowledging this fact he calls upon him, ready to communicate with the transcendent dimension. Religion in act is the process through which man renders himself a sort of cup to be filled by the grace of god, a process through which man gives all of him into the hands of god, reciprocally being filled with divine grace (hence the exchange).
The author insists that religion is a practical action because it derives from a practical need, the void of which it fulfils. Therefore man needs god not because of moral precepts which have been taught to him by education, nor because man is an admirer of beauty as expressed in all of god's manifestations (such as nature, for example). Man needs god deep within his soul because he has been torn apart from the universal divine dimension and he needs it in order to feel complete. Man has been created by god through god (god and his power are the same thing). Consequently man needs god in order to reach the state of perfection from which he derives (only through and in god can man become perfect as well). Religion as a process, with prayer as its tool is an enactment of these principles.
In addition the act of praying is carefully defined in its profound dimension which is so much more than the mere pronunciation of words and formula which are considered to be sacred. Praying is a sacred act because it opens the doors between the two worlds of the sacred and the profane, allowing man to be overwhelmed by and with the divine grace. Prayer is an act which activates the soul through the blind belief that man has in god. Through this act man has access to a deep and personal knowledge of god, a type of knowledge which goes beyond reason. The fact that the mysterious power remains without a name is a sign that its complexity can not be grasped, nor closed by the realms of human reality ad reason.
Religion, in order to manifest itself must fulfil the criterion of sincerity and humility. This is why the author underlines that mere willing, desire can not activate the process in the absence of real faith. It is the same thing with dogma and form generally speaking. Knowing the moral principles and obeying the moral laws in the absence of a true understanding of god may only lead to a sterile attempt of invoking divinity, one which has nothing to do with the deep spiritual connection which gets enacted by faith.
The third definition of religion that we will discuss is given by John Renard who states that ." "In its broadest sense, the term "religion" means adherence to a set of beliefs or teachings about the deepest and most elusive of life's mysteries. The word comes from an ancient Latin root (religo) that means "to bind" or "to obligate." Religious Persons join together in a shared quest to understand a host of perplexing questions. What is the origin of life? What does it mean to be human? Are there greater-than-human forces responsible for the shape of things? How should a person of good will behave? Is life as we know it all there is, or are we destined for an adventure that goes well beyond an earthly life-expectancy?" (Renard, 3)
The first thing that draws the attention when discussing this definition is the Latin origin of the name, which means "to bind" or " to obligate." Unlike the other authors analyzed so far, Renard underlines the fact that faith (religion) binds people together in a spiritual community. On the one hand the binding is made between people. On the other hand the binding is to be made by the individual to the beliefs. Religion can be defined as faith. Its role is to help people understand the meaning of life, their human dimension and the purpose of existence. The author implies that people arrived at the concept of "god" in their attempt to discover the origins of life. Where does life come from and who created man are both questions which seem to find the answer in the omniscience and omnipotence of god.
Religion and god through it seem to answer the question about the source of existence of the universe as well as their meaning. If the others definitions also suggested that god is infinite, the creator of everything, the potential of everything, the possessor of the absolute truth, this time the definition makes a point about the temporal dimension of the divine. What it actually suggests is that god is not only infinite, but also eternal. This gives us a completely different perspective regarding life. If god is eternal and man has been created by and through god, then it means that the earthly life is only a limited duration of what man could benefit from. Life being synonymous with god is eternal just like him. Life on earth therefore becomes a passage which was put at our disposal because of god's infinite love for us. From this perspective he appears to be the possessor of absolute power, positioning man as a fragile and incomplete being, destined to struggle and to suffer in his attempt to reach the primordial perfection that he was torn from.
The very definition of religion is the acknowledgement that a being which is superior to man exists. This existence of this being comes with a promise, that of overriding all the human frailties and defects. The idea of god incarnates all the human ideals, surpassing all the human limits, from the temporal one, to the one of creation and comprehension. The idea of god, together with religion shape the promise of a potentially perfect future, the one of eternal life and the achievement of perfection through the consciousness of the absolute truth. With this promise in mind the earthly life becomes a mere passage in which one must demonstrate his merits. Therefore religions binds people not only through a common spiritual belief, but also through a set of laws of behaviour which are meant to make sure that this belief is incarnated on a daily basis, in "real" life.
The author refers to these questions as being "perplexing." They are perplexing because in the absence of the concept of god (and religion), the answer to them is highly unsatisfying. In the absence of this answer, man remains the result of a meaningfulness evolution of cosmic forces which we do not fully understand yet because of our limited rational capacities. He remains trapped in an earthly existence in which he is a creator of everything, but is scarcely able of relevant creation. If god as a concept has been invented in order to respond to man's psychological need to battle off the issues written above or he is the expression of existence par excellence is something that can be understood only at personal level and through personal means which go beyond any instrument of knowledge that society might provide us with.
Hegel, G.W.F. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, trans., E.B. Speirs and J. Burdon Sanderson. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1895
Renard, J. The Handy Religion Answer Book . Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2002